CARSON, Calif. – A Joao Plata winner in the 80th minute led to a 1-0 defeat for the LA Galaxy in their MLS regular season opener against Real Salt Lake in front of 25,634 at StubHub Center. The defeat was the first time that the Galaxy have dropped a season opener since the 2012 season.
DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWN DOOMS LA
Late goals and defensive breakdowns doomed the LA Galaxy in 2013 and again a late defensive mishap cost LA three points on Saturday.
Early on, the Galaxy enjoyed a strong defensive performance as they repeatedly snuffed out chances by the visitors while goalkeeper Jaime Penedo made three spectacular saves—including a pair of acrobatic stops on Plata and Aaron Maund— to keep the match scoreless. While the Panamanian kept RSL off the board, Leonardo and Omar Gonzalez repeatedly stifled forward Alvaro Saborío, who was rendered a nonfactor for much of the match.
However, in the second half, Salt Lake began to find more possession and made the Galaxy pay for good in the 80th minute when Joao Plata split the Galaxy defense and easily beat Penedo to give Salt Lake the victory. Late goals were a well-documented issue for the Galaxy in 2013, with the club conceding 18 goals in the final 15 minutes of play, and one that LA will be looking to avoid in 2014.
RIMANDO AND POOR FINISHING PUNISH THE GALAXY
The LA Galaxy attack pushed Real Salt Lake to the brink, but thanks to the stellar play of goalkeeper Nick Rimando and some lackluster finishing, LA were unable to earn a result in their season opener.
From the opening whistle, the Galaxy dominated possession as they took advantage of the significant time and space given to them by RSL which resulted in a host of early chances. However, despite LA’s repeated looks on goal, Rimando stymied the Galaxy attack, making clutch saves on chances by Robbie Keane, Samuel and Landon Donovan. Keane had the lone attempt that beat the ‘keeper, but the Irishman saw his 34th minute chance ring off the crossbar. Rimando saved his best for last as he saved Robbie Keane's penalty in stoppage time to seal three points for the visitors.
The Galaxy will hope that their poor finishing was purely an aberration as they head into Wednesday’s vital CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Club Tijuana.
MIXED DEBUT FOR THE GALAXY’S NEW ADDITIONS
The LA Galaxy invested heavily in experienced additions this offseason, but the new signings had mixed results on Saturday.
None of the new signings shined brighter than Samuel, who wowed the crowds with several fantastical moments of Brazilian ballwork, but where he was particularly effective was with his hold-up play as he frequently held up the ball deep in the final third and then found his teammates in dangerous spots. Meanwhile fellow starter James Riley put in a solid effort despite being tested frequently by Javier Morales throughout the match.
With the Galaxy searching fora goal in the second half, Arena threw on Stefan Ishizaki in the 69th minute who tested Nick Rimando twice to no avail. Newcomer Rob Friend nearly had a major impact during his 13 minute shift after drawing a stoppage time penalty. Fellow European signing Baggio Hušidić entered late but was unable to make a significant impact on the result.